Former South Africa captain Faf du Plessis retires from Test cricket

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JANUARY 22: South Africa captain Faf du Plessis reacts during South Africa nets at The Wanderers ahead of the 4th and final Test Match on January 22, 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Former South Africa captain Faf du Plessis on Wednesday announced his retirement from Test cricket with immediate effect.

Du Plessis, described by Cricket South Africa (CSA) as one of the “most distinguished leaders” of the game in the country, played 69 matches in a career that spanned just over eight years.

FILE PHOTO: South African cricketer Faf du Plessis. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

The 36-year-old released a statement saying he was grateful for his “incredible journey” and it was the right time to step away from Test cricket.

“It has been a year of refinement in the fire for us all. Uncertain were the times, but they brought clarity for me in many respects. My heart is clear, and the time is right to walk into a new chapter. It has been an honour to play for my country in all the formats of the game, but the time has come for me to retire from Test cricket,” du Plessis said.

“If someone had told me 15 years ago, that I would play 69 Test matches for South Africa and captain the side, I wouldn’t have believed them. I stand in a place of utmost gratitude for a career full of blessings bestowed on me. Every high and low has shaped me into the man I am proud to stand as today. In all things, those instances worked towards the good of who I believe I am today.”

Du Plessis confirmed he will remain available for the Proteas in limited-overs cricket. However, he said he will prioritize the T20 format particularly with two T20 World Cups scheduled for 2021 and 2022.

“The next two years are ICC T20 World Cup years. Because of this, my focus is shifting to this format and I want to play as much of it as possible around the world so that I can be the best player I can possibly be,” he added.

Even as he stressed his strong belief he still had “a lot to offer” South Africa in the T20 format, du Plessis also ruled out completely stepping away from One-Day International (ODI) cricket. He has played a total of 143 ODIs and 50 T20Is.

“I will be in conversation with CSA over the next couple of months on what the future might look like for me over the next year to find a solution that works for both of us.”

CSA Director of Cricket Graeme Smith hailed du Plessis as a prolific Test cricketer whose departure would leave a big gap in the team.

“His commitment to the team has always been undoubtable and his transparency with Cricket South Africa about his plans has always been appreciated and we respect his decision, knowing he would not have come by it easily,” Smith said.

Du Plessis, a formidable batsman, ended the format with a record of 10 centuries, 21 half-centuries and 4,163 runs at an average of 40.02.

Du Plessis succeeded AB de Villiers as Test captain in 2016 and went on to lead the squad in 36 Tests (18 wins, 15 defeats) until February last year when he stepped down.

He became and, so far, remains the only South African to have scored a half-century and century on Test debut.